Thursday, May 28, 2015


Tonight, as I was driving my teenage son home he began to tell me how trapped and restricted he feels. He is in the middle of very important exams at the moment and so I told him that it won't last and that he will soon be free again. But he went on to tell me that he feels like it will never end because after he leaves school he will go to university and then to work and so he will always feel trapped. Like a typical parent, I told him that life is like that, everyone has to do it and that he would get used to it - the same things my parents told me. He reacted with frustration, as I'm sure I did too at his age when I was trying to come to terms with this great transition from childhood to adulthood. He said that that was like telling someone to get used to having a splinter in their foot. You can get used to the pain but you'll never be able to run. He said he wished that it could be like Skyrim, his computer game, where life is an adventure in a world full of magic. A place where you explore undiscovered lands, fight enemies, discover treasure, and where there is always something new and exciting around the next corner.  My answer was another typical, responsible parent answer, "Well, you can't spend your whole life playing computer games." He replied to my comment with even more irritation saying of course he didn't want to spend his life playing computer games but that he felt like there was nothing to look forward to in adult life.

His disillusionment took me back to my own years as a young adult when I started working. The feeling of, "Is this it? Is this all there is?" And a vision of years of work and very little play stretching far into the future. The joy and excitement, the feeling that anything could happen seemed to ebb away under the weight of routine and boring, repetitive and, for me, meaningless tasks. Work that required little intelligence and even less creativity. There was no need for an imagination in this world of 'grown-ups'. It was a world of flatness and deadness, of hollow-eyed ghosts floating around grey offices, dreaming of retirement and the chance to live again.

School is supposed to prepare us for this and in many ways it does. The end of primary school signals the end of childhood, the end of play and the end of the imagination. All of these should be left behind as we enter secondary school and undergo a relentless preparation for our entry into the world of work. It is there that we are taught 'facts' about the world within the context of subjects that are presented as unrelated. We are not encouraged to look at the big picture or to question the incompleteness of the information or why we need to learn it at all. It is there that our world views are shaped and, thanks to a system of testing, marking and praise (if we are lucky), we learn our value, or lack thereof, which in turn forms our expectations of what we might achieve when we step out into the world. Within a very narrow band of definitions school teaches us how much or how little we are worth to society. What we are not told is that those definitions are designed to judge, not our creativity, imagination or critical thinking, but our willingness to conform, to follow instructions and not question authority. Creativity and imagination are not rewarded, except in the arts to which few schools give real importance in their curricula.

It's small wonder then that many of my students tell me that they do not have an imagination when I ask them to use it. Some look at me incredulously as though I were asking them to juggle oranges or do a backflip. On rare occasions, my request that they imagine a scene or act a role is so alien to them that they refuse point blank and I have had to resort to a plan B. With others they make the effort to try the activity and surprise themselves when their creativity begins to flow. It makes me happy to see the sparkle in their eyes as they play. But it disturbs me that education systems seem to be turning out individuals that have lost the wonder and fascination they had as children and replaced it with a closed materialist view of the world and a programmed disbelief of the existence of anything that does not fit into the 'finiteness' of Newton's scientific laws.

It is because of this worldview that we often hear the words 'anomaly' and 'coincidence' which should have no place in the 'there's-an-explanation-for-everything reality' we're sold by the mainstream science community. Things that fall outside the sphere of established scientific norms are ignored and thrown into the metaphorical filing cabinet of awkward, unexplainable events that disprove the rule. Only those scientists truly worthy of the title have the courage to seek the truth and advance their discipline beyond the confines of the dusty status quo. Scientists such as Rupert Sheldrake, with his research into morphic resonance and the subtle communication between human beings and animals, and Bruce Lipton, who has popularised the study of epigenetics and the effect of thought on genes in his book, The Biology of Belief. These are two who are pushing the frontiers to reveal more and to bring forth the understanding that anomalies might not be so anomalous if science is allowed to expand and to evolve beyond its current accepted boundaries. When this happens, and I have no doubt that it is happening despite resistance from 'the old guard', the anomalies will be explained by humanity's new understanding of its world.

In the meantime, we can look upon the unexplained events in our lives with wonder and see their unpredictability through an adventurer's eyes. When synchronicity happens and we are in the right place at the right time, or we know something is going to happen before it does, or we say the same thing at the same time as someone else, we could say it's magic. When we walk in nature and sense how ancient the Earth is, how many have walked before us, feel profound reverence and waves of love and gratitude for her, that's magic. And when you look into another's eyes and know you've known them forever, that's deep magic. This is what I told my son. And as he began to disagree, I reminded him of our own little bit of magic that happened to us when we were in Cannes for my cousin's wedding several years ago. We had left our apartment to take a walk around the town when the heavens opened and we were caught, unprepared, outside in a thunder storm and torrential rain. We ran for shelter and stood in a shop doorway as the wind blew the rain into our faces. I said to my son, "I wish we had an umbrella!" At that exact moment, down the deserted street, a very large, open, multi-coloured umbrella rolled gracefully towards us, blown by the wind, slowing as it came alongside us so that I was able to take hold of the handle, which I did, and then we walked, smiling, back to the apartment.